Rev. Al Sharpton, civil rights activist and political commentator, commented that he has issues with taxpayer dollars going to the maintenance and upkeep of monuments for men who owned slaves.
During an Aug. 14 interview with PBS' Charlie Rose, Sharpton explained that he did not agree with taxpayer funds being allocated to the upkeep of monuments with ties to slavery.
"This is personal to us," Sharpton told Rose, according to The Blaze. "My great-grandfather was a slave in South Carolina. People need to understand that people were enslaved.”
Sharpton singled out the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., pointing out that former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner.
"When you look at the fact that public monuments are supported by public funds, you’re asking me to subsidize the insult of my family," Sharpton said, according to the Daily Wire.
"I would repeat that the public should not be paying to uphold somebody who has had that kind of background. You have private museums, you have other things that you may want to do there," Sharpton said, suggesting an alternate location for the monuments.
The Jefferson Memorial is currently slated to undergo an update that would add references to Jefferson's slave ownership in an effort to both remain historically accurate and relevant to current emotional attitudes, according to Fox News.
"We’re trying to make it a little more modern and more interactive to represent the complexity of someone like Jefferson in an appropriate way," said Kate Greenberg, vice president of marketing and communications for the Trust for the National Mall.
Greenberg said that after the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, it was not surprising that the national conversation about race would soon "spill over" to the National Mall.
Not everyone agreed with Sharpton's thoughts about removing access to federal funding for monuments such as the Jefferson Memorial. Others argued that Sharpton's comments were unfair because he has been the subject of IRS investigations for back taxes, according to the Daily Wire.
During an investigation in 2014, The New York Times found that Sharpton owed the IRS roughly $4.5 million in back taxes. The Times also reported that while Sharpton appeared to be paying down the amount he owed to the federal government, the balance he owed to the state of New York was growing.
The Times reported Sharpton often traveled first-class and took a large salary while under federal investigation.